Mr. John E. Getz
Ellis & Watts
4400 Glen Willow Lake Lane
Batavia, OH 45103

Dear Mr. Getz:

This responds to your May 15, 1997, letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), concerning the applicability of our safety standards to your vehicles. You were especially interested in the underride protection standard and the antilock braking system (ABS) standard, both of which become effective in 1998.

You explain that your company manufactures custom trailers. You usually purchase new or nearly complete trailers from a trailer manufacturer and "finish them, primarily inside, for specific applications such as medical trailers." You ask:

The question arises when you consider that we take delivery of a complying trailer several months before our sale. Consequently, we can be delivering our completed trailer in April 1998 which was received by us in December 1997 and thus doesn't incorporate either ABS or newer underride protection. Please confirm that our trailers in such a case are in compliance because the original trailer date of manufacture precedes the effective dates for the rules noted.

Our standards apply to any motor vehicle manufactured on or after the effective date of the standard. If you purchase a new, complete certified trailer before the effective dates of the underride and ABS standards, for "finishing" after the effective date of the standards, compliance with those standards is optional. The work you perform would probably define you to be an "alterer" under 49 CFR 567.7. An alterer is a person who alters a new vehicle that has previously been certified, other than by the addition, substitution, or removal of readily attachable components such as mirrors or tire and rim assemblies, or minor finishing operations such as painting, or who alters the vehicle in such a manner that its stated weight ratings are no longer valid. Section 567.7 requires alterers to allow the original certification label to remain on the vehicle, and to affix an additional label containing, among other information, the statement:

This vehicle was altered by (individual or corporate name) in (month and year in which alterations were completed) and as altered it conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards affected by the alteration and in effect in (month, year). * * *

Section 567.7 provides that "The second date shall be no earlier than the manufacturing date of the original vehicle, and no later than the date alterations were completed. * * * " Under this section, if you are altering a December 1997 vehicle in April 1998, you are permitted to certify that the vehicle, as altered, conforms to the standards in effect in December 1997.

Similarly, if you purchase a new, incomplete trailer (with accompanying documentation, see 49 CFR 568.4), before the effective dates of the underride and ABS standards for completing after the effective date of the standards, you need not certify compliance with those standards. Our requirement for certifying vehicles manufactured in two or more stages (49 CFR 568.6) specifies that "Each final-stage manufacturer shall complete the vehicle in such a manner that it conforms to the standards in effect on the date of manufacture of the incomplete vehicle, the date of final completion, or a date between those two dates.(1) In the example you provide, the date of manufacture of the incomplete trailer would be which is prior to the effective date of the underride and ABS standards. Thus, those standards would not apply to the vehicle.

I hope this answers your questions. Please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992 if you need further assistance.

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel

1. Note that 568.6 also specifies that this requirement shall, however, be superseded by any conflicting provisions of a standard that applies by its terms to vehicle manufactured in two or more stages. The underride and ABS standards have no such provision.